Bible Commentaries
Habakkuk 3

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

A prayer of Habakkuk - o. The “prayer” of the prophet, in the strictest sense of the word, is contained in the words of Habakkuk 3:2. The rest is, in its form, praise and thanksgiving, chiefly for God’s past mercies in the deliverance from Egypt and the entering into the promised land. But thanksgiving is an essential part of prayer, and Hannah is said to have “prayed,” whereas the hymn which followed is throughout one thanksgiving . In that also these former deliverances were images of things to come, of every deliverance afterward, and, especially, of that complete divine deliverance which our Lord Jesus Christ performed for us from the power of Satan 1 Corinthians 10:11, the whole is one prayer: “Do, O Lord, as Thou hast done of old; forsake not Thine own works. Such were Thy deeds once; fulfill them now, all which they shadowed forth.” It is then a prayer for the manifestation of God’s power, and therewith the destruction of His enemies, thenceforth to the Day of Judgment. Cyril: “Having completed the discourse about Babylon, and having fore-announced most clearly, that those who destroyed the holy city and carried Israel captive shall be severely punished, he passes suitably to the mystery of Christ, and from the redemption which took place partially in one nation, he carries on the discourse to that universal redemption, whereby the remnant of Israel, and no less the whole world has been saved.”

Upon Shigionoth - The title, “Shiggaion,” occurs only once besides Psalms 7:0. Upon, in the titles of the Psalms, is used with the instrument , the melody , or the first words of the hymn, whose melody has been adopted The two first are mentioned by a Jewish Commentator (Tanchum) with others, “in his delight,” or “his errors,” in the sense, that God will forgive them. This, which the versions and Jewish commentators mostly adopt, would be a good sense, but is hardly consistent with the Hebrew usage. “Shiggaion of David,” as a title of a Psalm, must necessarily describe the Psalm itself, as “Mismor of David,” “Michtam of David,” “Tephillah of David,” “Maschil of David.” But “Shiggaion,” as a “great error,” is not a title: nor does it suit the character of the Psalm, which relates to calumny not to error.

It probably, then, means a psalm with music expressive of strong emotion, “erratic” or “dithyrambic.” Habakkuk’s title, on Shigionoth (plural) then would mean upon, or (as we should say,) “set to” music of psalms of this sort The number “three” remarkably predominates in this psalm (Habakkuk 3:6 has 15 words, in five combinations of three words; Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:10 have 12 words, in four 3’s: Habakkuk 3:4, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:19 have 9 words in three 3’s: Habakkuk 3:5, Habakkuk 3:12, Habakkuk 3:15, Habakkuk 3:18 have 6 words in two 3’s: Habakkuk 3:17 is divided into 4-3-3-4-3-3; Habakkuk 3:8 is 3-3-3-3-2; Habakkuk 3:11 is 4-3-3; Habakkuk 3:16 is 3-3-3-2-2-2-3. This forces itself on every reader. Delitzsch quotes the Meor. Enaim, i. 60, “The prayer of Habakkuk goeth on three’s”) yet so that long measures are succeeded by very short.

Verse 2

O Lord, I have heard - i. e., with the inward ear of the heart, “Thy speech,” (rather as English margin, Thy report, i. e., the report of Thee) i. e., what may he heard and known of God, or, what he had himself heard . The word contains in one both what God had lately declared to the prophet, the judgments of God upon the wicked of the people, and upon those who, with their own injustice, done upon them the righteous judgments of God, and that the work of the Lord would be performed in His time for those who in patience wait for it; and also still more largely, what might be heard of God, although, as it were, but a little whisper of His greatness and of the majesty of His workings.

And was afraid - not “fearful” but “afraid in awe,” as a creature, and amazed at the surpassing wonderfulness of the work of God. Well may man stand in awe “at the incarnation of the only-begotten Son, how earth should contain Him uncontained by space, how a body was prepared for Him of the virgin by the Holy Spirit, and all the works whereby He shall work the salvation of mankind, the cross, the death, resurrection and ascension, uniting things opposite, a body with one incorporeal, death with life, resurrection with death, a body in heaven. All is full of wonder and awe.” Rup.: “This is not a servile fear, but a holy fear which endureth forever, not one which ‘love casteth out,’ but which it bringeth in, wherein angels praise, dominions adore, powers stand in awe at the majesty of the Eternal God.”

O Lord, revive Thy work - God’s Word seems, often, as it were, dead and “come utterly to an end for evermore” Psalms 77:8, while it is holding on its own course, as all nature seems dead for a while, but all is laid up in store, and ready to shoot forth, as by a sort of resurrection Rup.: “The prophet prophesying prayeth, that it should come quickly, and praying prophesieth that it shall so come.” All God’s dealings with His people, His Church, each single soul, are part of one great work, perfect in itself Deuteronomy 32:4; glory and majesty Psalms 140:3; all which the godly meditateth on Psalms 77:3; Psalms 143:5; which those busied with their own plans, do not look to Isaiah 5:12; it is manifested in great doings for them or with them, as in the Exodus the Psalmist says, “We have heard with our ears, yea, our fathers have told us what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old” Psalms 44:2; “They proved Me and saw My work” Psalms 95:9; with it He makes His own glad Psalms 92:3; after it has been withdrawn for a while, “He sheweth it to His servants” Psalms 90:6; it issues in judgments on the ungodly, which people consider and declare .

The great work of God on earth, which includes all His works and is the end of all, is the salvation of man through Jesus Christ. This great work seemed, as it were, asleep, or dead, as trees in winter, all through those 4,000 years, which gave no token of His coming. Included in this great work is the special work of the Hand of God, of which alone it is said, “God said, Let Us make man in Our image after Our Likeness” Genesis 1:26; and, “we are the clay and Thou our Potter, and we are all the work of Thy Hands” Isaiah 64:8; and “Thy Hands have made me and fashioned me together round about” Job 10:8, man; whom, being dead as to the life of the soul through the malice of Satan, Christ revived by dying and rising again. He was “dead in trespasses and sins,” and like a carcass putrefying in them, and this whole world one great charnel-house, through man’s manifold corruptions, when Christ came to awaken the dead, and they who heard lived John 5:25.

Again, the Center of this work, the special Work of God, that wherein He made all things new, is the Human Body of our Lord, the Temple which was destroyed by death, and within three days was raised up.

The answer to Habakkuk’s enquiry, “How long?” had two sides: It had given assurance as to the end. The trial-time would not be prolonged for one moment longer than the counsel of God had fore-determined. The relief would “come, come; it would not be behind-hand.” But meantime? There was no comfort to be given. For God knew that deepening sin was drawing on deepening chastisement. But in that He was silent as to the intervening time and pointed to patient expectation of a lingering future, as their only comfort, He implies that the immediate future was heavy. Habakkuk then renews his prayer for the years which had to intervene and to pass away. “In the midst of the years,” before that “time appointed” , when His promise should have its full fulfillment, before those years should come to their close, he prays; “revive Thy work.” The years include all the long period of waiting for our Lord’s first coming before He came in the Flesh; and now for His second coming and the “restitution of all things.” in this long period, at times God seems to be absent, as when our Lord was asleep in the boat, while the tempest was raging; at times He bids “the storm to cease and there is a great calm.”

This, in those long intervals, when God seems to be absent, and to leave all things to time and chance, and love waxes cold, and graces seem rare, is the prayer of Habakkuk, of prophets and Psalmists, of the Church Psalms 80:14, “Return, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts, look down from heaven, behold and visit this vine Psalms 74:1, Psalms 74:11-12. O God, why hast Thou cast us off forever? Why withdrawest Thou Thy hand, Thy right hand? For God is my king of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Isaiah 51:9-10 awake, awake, put on strength, Thou Arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not It which did smite Rahab, didst wound the dragon? Art thou not It which didst dry the sea, the waters of the great deep, which didst make the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? Psalms 80:3. Stir up Thy might and come, save us Lamentations 5:21. Renew our days, as of old.” So our Lord taught His Church to pray continually, whenever she prayed, “Thy kingdom come,” longing not for His final coming only, but for the increase of His glory, and the greater dominion of His grace, and His enthronement in the hearts of people, even before its complete and final coming. “In the midst of the years revive Thy work,” is the Church’s continual cry.

In the midst of the years make known - literally, “Thou wilt make known: in wrath Thou wilt remember mercy;” and so (as we use the word “wilt”) the prophet, at once, foretelleth, expresseth his faith, prayeth. God had made known His work and His power in the days of old. In times of trouble He seems “like a God who hideth Himself.” Now, he prays Him to shine forth and help; make known Thy work, before Thou fulfill it, to revive the drooping hopes of man, and that all may see that “Thy word is truth.” Make Thyself known in Thy work, that, when the time cometh to Daniel 9:24 “make an end of sin” by the Death of Thy Son, Thy Awful Holiness, and the love wherewith Thou hast John 3:16 “so loved the world,” may be the more known and adored.

In wrath Thou wilt remember mercy - So David prayed Psalms 25:6, “Remember Thy tender-mercies and Thy loving-kindnesses; for they are from old.” “Thou wilt remember” that counsel for man’s redemption which has been from the foundation of the world: for we seem in our own minds to be forgotten of God, when He delayeth to help us. God remembereth mercy Luke 1:54, Luke 1:72 in anger, in that in this life He never chastens without purposes of mercy, and His Mercy ever softeneth His judgments. His Promise of mercy, that the Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, went before the sentence of displeasure Genesis 3:19, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Jerome: “He reveals His wrath that He may scare us from sin and so may not inflict it;” and when at last He inflicteth it, He hath mercy on the remnant who flee to His Mercy, that we be not like Sodom and Gomorrah. Romans 5:8, “while we were yet sinners,” and God was angry, “Christ died for us,” and, Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not for works which we had done, but out of His great Mercy,” and took away sin, and restored us to life and interruption.

God had already promised by Micah Micah 7:15, “According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt, I will show him marvelous things.” Isaiah had often used the great events of that deliverance as the symbols of the future. So now Habakkuk, in one vast panorama, as it were, without distinction of time or series of events, exhibits the future in pictures of the past. In the description itself which follows, he now speaks in the past, now in the future; of which times the future might be a vivid present; and the past a prophetic past. As a key to the whole, he says, “God shall come,” indicating that all which follows, however spoken, was a part of that future. In no other way was it an answer to that prayer, “Revive Thy work.” To foretell future deliverances in plain words, had been a comfort; it would have promised a continuance of that work. The unity and revival of the work is expressed, in that the past is made, as it was, the image of the future. That future was to be wondrous, superhuman; elsewhere the past miracles had been no image of it. It was to be no mere repetition of the future; and to mark this, the images are exhibited out of their historical order.

Verse 3

God came - literally, shall come

From Teman - “God shall come,” as He came of old, clothed with majesty and power; but it was not mere power. The center of the whole picture is, as Micah and Isaiah had prophesied that it was to be, a new revelation Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2 : “The law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 44:5, “I will give Thee for a covenant to the people (Israel), for a light of the Gentiles.” So now, speaking of the new work in store, Habakkuk renews the imagery in the Song of Moses Deuteronomy 33:2, in Deborah’s Song Judges 5:5, and in David; Psalms 68:7 but there the manifestation of His glory is spoken of wholly in time past, and Mount Sinai is named. Habakkuk speaks of that coming as yet to be, and omits the express mention of Mount Sinai, which was the emblem of the law . And so he directs us to another Lawgiver, whom God should raise up like unto Moses Deuteronomy 18:15-18, yet with a law of life, and tells how He who spake the law, God, shall come in likeness of our flesh. And the Holy One from Mount Paran In the earliest passage three places are mentioned, in which or from which the glory of God was manifested; with this difference however, that it is said Deuteronomy 33:2, The Lord came from Sinai, but His glory arose, as we should say “dawned” unto them from Seir, and flashed forth from Mount Paran Seir and Mount Paran are joined together by the symbol of the light which dawned or shone forth from them. In the second passage, the Song of Deborah, Seir and the field of Edom are the place whence God came forth; Sinai melted Judges 5:4-5 at His presence.

In Psalms 68:0 the mention of Edom is dropped; and the march through the wilderness under the leading of God, is alone mentioned, together with the shaking of Sinai. In Habakkuk, the contrast is the same as in Moses; only Tehran stands in place of Seir . Theman and Mount Paran are named probably, as the two opposed boundaries of the journeyings of Israel through the desert. They came to Mount Sinai through the valley, now called Wady Feiran or Paran; Edom was the bound of their wanderings to their promised land Numbers 20:14-20; Deuteronomy 2:0. God who guided, fed, protected them from the beginning, led them to the end. Between Paran also and Edom or Teman was the gift of the Spirit to the seventy, which was the shadow of the day of Pentecost; there, was the brass serpent lifted up, the picture of the healing of the Cross . If Mount Paran is near Kadesh, then Moses in the opening of his song describes the glory of God as manifested from that first revelation of His Law on Mount Sinai; then in that long period of Israel’s waiting there to its final departure for the promised land, when Mount Hor was consecrated and God’s awful Holiness declared in the death of Aaron.

He who “shall come,” is God , “the Holy One” (a proper name of gods) . Perfect in Holiness, as God, the Son of God, and as Man also all-holy, with a human will, always exactly accompanying the Divine Will, which was:

“The passion of His Heart

Those Three-and-thirty years.”

On this there follows a pause denoted by “Selah” (which occurs thrice according to the mystery of that number,) that the soul may dwell on the greatness of the majesty and mercy of God.

Selah - There is no doubt as to the general purport of the word, that it is a musical direction, that there should be a pause, the music probably continuing alone, while the mind rested upon the thought, which had just been presented to it; our “interlude” . It is always placed at some pause of thought, even when not at the end of a strophe, or, as twice in this hymn , at the end of the verse.

Gregory of Nyssa modifies this thought, supposing “Selah” to express a pause made by the writer, that “while the psalmody, with which David’s prophesying was accompanied, went on in its course, another illumining of the Holy Spirit, and an addition to the gift according to knowledge, came for the benefit of those who received the prophecy, he, holding in his verse, gave time for his mind to receive the knowledge of the thought, which took place in him from the divine illumining. He defines it to be “a sudden silence in the midst of the Psalmody for the reception of the illumining.”

His Glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise - This is plainly no created glory, but anticipates the Angelic Hymn Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men,” or, as the Seraphim sing first glory to God in Heaven Isaiah 6:3, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth,” and then, the whole earth is full of His glory; and Uncreated Wisdom saith (Ecclesiasticus 24:5), “I alone compassed the circuit of Heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep.” Nor are they our material heavens, much less this lowest heaven over our earth nor is “His glory” any of God, which rules, encompasses, fills, penetrates the orbs of heaven and all its inhabitants, and yet is not enclosed nor bounded thereby. Those who are made as the heavens by the indwelling of God He spiritually “covers,” filling them with the light of glory and splendor of grace and brightness of wisdom, as it saith, “Is there any number of His armies, and upon whom doth not His light arise? Job 25:3 and so the earth was full of His praise,” i. e., the Church militant spread throughout the world, as in the Psalm Psalms 112:3, “The Lord’s name is praised from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same, and, Psalms 8:1, O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth, who hast set Thy glory above the heavens.”

Verse 4

and His brightness - that wherein God dwelleth Ezekiel 10:4, “the brightness of the Lord’s glory,” before which darkness fleeth Psalms 18:12, “was as the light,” or as the sun. Out of the midst of the darkness, wherewith God, as it were Exodus 19:9, Exodus 19:16; Exodus 20:21, hid Himself, the brightness of the “inapproachable Light” wherein “He dwelleth,” gleams forth Exodus 24:10, bright as the brightest “light” gathered into one, which man knows of and whereon he cannot gaze. So amid the darkness of the humiliation of His presence in the flesh, John 1:14 : “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father;” and, Isaiah 9:2, “the people that walked in darkness see a great light,” not dim. Theoph.: “nor weak, nor shadowed, like that of Moses, but pure unimaginable light of the knowledge of God.” The brightness too of His flesh was like the light of the Godhead on Mount Tabor; for the Godhead flashed through. Rup.: “As often as He did His marvelous works, He put forth His “brightness” (tempered for His creatures, since they could not approach the depth of His light, yet) as “light” to enlighten people to know Him. Yet the brightness issues from the Light, co-existing with it, and in it, while issuing from it. And so the words aptly express, how He who is the, Hebrews 1:3, “brightness of the Father’s Glory and the express Image of His Person.” Wisdom Hebrews 7:25, “brightness of the eternal light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness,” is as the Light from whom He is. Nicene Creed: “Light of Light,” Equal to the Father by whom He was begotten. As John says in John 1:9 : “That was the true Light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world.” As He prayeth in John 17:5, “Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

He had horns coming out of His Hand - Jerome Dion: “Horns are everywhere in Holy Scripture the emblem of strength.” It may be, that here “rays” are likened to horns, as the face of Moses is said, with the same image, to have “sent forth rays” after he had long been in the presence of God. So it may be a mingled image of the Glory and might; Light, which was also might. But “horns,” though they may be a symbol of “light,” are not of “lightning;” and the Hand of God is used as an emblem of His power, His protection, His bounty, His constraining force on His prophets. It is nowhere used of the side or sides. We have two images combined here; “horns” which in every other place in which they are used as a metaphor, is an emblem of power; and “from the hand of” which, wherever it is used of a person, means that the thing spoken of had been in his hand or power really or virtually. Both then combine in the meaning that the might came forth from the directing agency of God who wielded it.

When then did light or might, which lay, as it were, before in the hand of God, go forth from it? For “the hand of God” is always symbolic of His might, whether put forth, or for the time laid up in it. The form of the words remarkably corresponds to those of Moses, in the preface to the blessing on the tribes, which Habakkuk had in mind Deuteronomy 33:2, “From His right hand was a fiery law for them,” and Paul says that the glory of Moses’ face which he received from the Presence of God, was a symbol of the glory of the law. 2 Corinthians 3:7 says, “The ministration of death written and engraven on stone was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance.” The law, being given by God, had a majesty of its own. The Psalms bear witness to its power in converting, enwisening, rejoicing, enlightening the soul Psalms 19:8. They in whose heart it was, none of their steps slipped Psalms 37:31. The whole 119th Psalm is one varied testimony of its greatness and its power. It was a guide on the way; it was a schoolmaster unto Christ Galatians 3:24, by whom it was fulfilled. But itself bare witness of the greater glory which should come forth from the Hand of God. 2 Corinthians 3:11 states, “If that which is done away were glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” Cyril: “The horn signifieth power, when it is spoken of God the Father exhibiting to us God the Son, Luke 2:69, ‘He hath raised up a horn of salvation for us,’ and again, Psalms 111:9, ‘His horn shall be exalted in honor.’ For all things which were marvelously done were glorious. The only-begotten One then came in our form, and, in regard to the flesh and the manhood, enduring the appearance of our weakness, but, as God, invisible in might and easily subduing whom He willed.”

And what has been the weapon of His warfare, whereby He has subdued the might of Satan and the hearts of people, but “the horns” of His cross, whereto His sacred hands were once fastened by the sharp nails, where was the “hiding of His Power,” when His almightiness lay hid in His passion Isaiah 53:3, and He was Psalms 22:6 “a worm and no man; a reproach of men and the despised of the people?” Now it is the scepter laid upon His shoulder Isaiah 9:6, the ensign and trophy of His rule, the rod of His strength Psalms 110:2, terrible to devils, salvation to mankind. In it lay His might, although concealed, as He said, “The words, horns are in His hands, show the insignia of His kingdom, by which horns, pushing and thrusting the invisible and opposing powers, He drove them away.” Eusebius Dem. Evang. vi. 15. Add Cyprian Test. ad Quirin. ii. 21. p. 57. Oxford Translation: “The horns in His hands, what are they but the trophy of the cross?”

Augustine, de Civ. Dei xviii. 32), “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” John 12:32. His Might was lodged there, although hidden. It was “the hiding-place of His power.” The cross was, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ crucified was the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.” Through the Cross was, Matthew 28:18, “all power given to Him both in Heaven and earth.” Daniel 7:14 : “there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him.” From Him shall go forth all power in earth; by His hands shall be given the vacant thrones in Heaven, as He says in Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His Throne.” There too was the hiding of His Power, in that there, in His Cross, is our shelter , and in His pierced Side our hiding place, where we may take refuge from Satan and our sins; for therein is power.

Consider John 10:28, “Neither shall any pluck them out of My Hand.” Light and darkness always meet in God. His inapproachable light is darkness to eyes which would gaze on it. Psalms 104:2, “he covereth Himself with Light as with a garmemt.” His light is the very veil which hideth Him. His Light is darkness to those who pry into Him and His Nature; His darkness is light to those who by faith behold Him. He “emptied Himself” Philippians 2:8 and hid Himself; He hid the power of His Godhead in the weakness of the Manhood, and so, 2 Corinthians 4:6, “He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the Face of Jesus Christ.” Jerome: “In the Cross was for a while His might hidden, when He said to His Father, Matthew 26:38-39, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,’ and on the Cross itself, Luke 23:13, ‘Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit. ‘“

Verse 5

Before Him went (goeth) the pestilence - then to consume His enemies. Exodus 23:27 : “I will send My fear before thee, and will destroy all the people, to whom thou shalt come,” and the lightnings are a token that, Psalms 68:1-2, “they which hate Him, flee before Him, and the wicked perish at the Presence of God.” So, on His Ascension, Herod and Pilate were smitten by Him, and Elymas and Simon Magus before His apostles, and whatsoever hath lifted itself up against Him hath perished, and antichrist shall perish, Psalms 11:4, “at the breath of His mouth,” and all the ungodly on the Day of Judgment.

And burning coals - rather, as English, “burning fever”, Deuteronomy 32:2. (where also it is singular, as only beside in רשׁף בני benēy resheph Job 5:7.) So A. E., “burning coals” is from Kimchi, Tanchum gives as different opinions “sparks” or “arrows” or “pestilence;” but the meanings “sparks, arrows,” are ascribed only to the plural. Psalms 76:4; 88:48; Song of Solomon 8:6. The central meaning is probably “burning heat.”

Went forth at his feet - i. e., followed Him. Messengers of death went as it were before Him, as the front of His army, and the rear thereof was other forms of death Death and destruction of all sorts are a great army at His command, going before Him as heralds of His Coming (such as are judgments in this world) or attendants upon Him, at the judgment when He appeareth 2 Tim. 6:1. in His kingdom, when, Matthew 13:51, Matthew 13:42, “they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire.”

Verse 6

He stood - It is “a metaphor of his giving victory to Israel” Tanchum.

And measured - So Kimchi, A. E., Rashi, Tanchum, Vulgate. It is borne out by Hithpolel. “extended himself,” 1 Kings 17:21. By an interchange of dentals; מוד might be = מוט, and so the Aramaic and the Septuagint but in no other case do the two forms co-exist in Hebrew.

The earth - Joshua, after he had conquered the land, meted it out and divided it among the people. He who should come, should measure out the earth in its length and breadth, that earth which His glory filleth. “He stood,” as Stephen saw Him, Acts 7:56, “standing at the right hand of God.” Isaiah saith, Isaiah 3:13 : “The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.” He had not need to go forth, but, in the abode of His glory, “He stood” and beheld and with His eye “measured the earth,” as His own, whereas, before the cross, it lay under 1 Corinthians 2:5, “the Prince of this world,” and he had said, Luke 4:6, “it is delivered unto me, and unto whomsoever I will, I give it.” “He measureth it,” and gave it to His apostles. Matthew 28:18; Mark 16:15 : “all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” and, Psalms 19:4, “their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words into the ends of the world.” He measureth it also, surveying and weighing all who dwell therein, their persons, qualities, deeds, good or bad, to requite them, as “Judge of quick and dead;” as David cast down Moab and measured them with a line, 2 Samuel 8:2, “to put to death and to keep alive.”

He beheld, and drove asunder the nations - or, “made the nations to tremble.” When Israel came out of Egypt and God divided the Red Sea before them, they sang: Exodus 15:15-16 “The people shall hear and be afraid; terror shall take hold of the inhabitants of Palestine; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away; fear and dread shall fall on them; by the greatness of Thy power they shall be still as a stone.” Fear and awe were to be renewed. All nearness of God brings terror to sinful man. When the news came through the wise men, that they had, Matthew 2:1-3, “seen in the East the star of Him who was born, King of the Jews,” not only was Herod the King troubled, but “all Jerusalem with him.” Pilate John 19:8 “was afraid” when he condemned Jesus; the high priests wondered “whereunto this should grow,” and expostulated, Acts 5:24, Acts 5:28, “ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.” Pagandom was as a beleaguered city, mastered by an ubiquitous Presence, which they knew not how to meet . “The state is beset: the Christians are in their fields. in their forts, in their islands. Every sex, age, condition, and now even rank is going over to this sect.” The fierceness of the persecutions was the measure of their fear. They put forth all human might to stamp out the spark, lest their gods, and the greatness of the empire which they ascribed to their gods, should fall before this unknown Power.

And the everlasting mountains were scattered; the perpetual hills did bow - all power, great or small, gave way before Him. All which withstood was scattered asunder, all which in pride lifted itself up was brought low, although before the coming of the Saviour it had ever gone with neck erect, and none could humble its pride. There is something so marvelous about those ancient mountains. There they stood before man was on the earth; they are so solid, man so slight; they have survived so many generations of man; they will long survive us; they seem as if they would stand forever; nothing could stand before the might of God. What symbol could be more apt? To the greater pride the heavier lot is assigned; the mountains lifted on high above the earth and, as it were, looking down upon it, are scattered or dispersed, as when a stone flieth in pieces under the stroke of the hammer. The “hills” are bowed down only; and this may be the pride of man humbled under the yoke of Christ.

His ways are everlasting - “Everlasting” is set over against “everlasting.” The “everlasting” of the creature, that which had been as long as creation had been, co-existing with its whole duration, its most enduring parts, are as things past and gone; “the everlasting mountains, the hills of eternity,” have been scattered in pieces and bowed, and are no more. Over against these stands the everpresent eternity of God. “His ways are everlasting,” ordered everlastingly, existing everlastingly in the Divine Mind, and, when in act among us, without change in Him. The prophet blends in these great words, things seemingly contrary, ways which imply progress, eternity which is unchangeable “God ever worketh, and ever resteth; unchangeable, yet changing all; He changeth His works, His purpose unchanged” . “For Thou art Most High, and art not changed, neither in Thee doth today come to a close; yet in Thee it doth come to a close; because all such things also are in Thee. For they had no way to pass away, unless Thou heldest them together. ‘And since Thy years fail not,’ Thy years are one Today. How many of our’s and our fathers’ years have flowed away through Thy today; and from it received the measure and the mould of such being as they had; and still others shall flow away, and so receive the mould of their degree of being. But Thou art still the Same; and all things of tomorrow, and all beyond, and all of yesterday, and all behind it, Thou wilt do in this today, Thou hast done in this today”

To these His goings, a highway is made by the breaking down of all which exalted itself, as Isaiah had said, “The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low and the Lord Alone shall be exalted in that day” Isaiah 2:17; and “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” Isaiah 40:3.

Bernard in Ps. Qui habitat. Serra. xi. 8: “The Everlasting ways of the Everlasting God are Mercy and Truth, by these Ways are the hills of the world and the proud demons, the princes of the darkness of this world, bowed down, who knew not the way of mercy and truth nor remembered its paths. What hath he to do with truth, who is a liar and the father of it, and of whom it is written, ‘he abode not in the Truth?’ But how far he is from Mercy, our misery witnesseth, inflicted on us by him. When was he ever merciful, ‘who was a murderer from the beginning?’ So then those swelling hills were bowed down from the Everlasting Ways, when through their own crookedness they sunk away from the straight ways of the Lord, and became not so much ways as precipices. How much more prudently and wisely are other hills bowed down and humbled by these ways to salvation! For they were not bowed from them, as parting from their straightness, but the Everlasting Ways themselves bowed down. May we not now see the hills of the world bowed down, when those who are high and mighty with devoted submission bow themselves before the Lord. and worship at His Feet? Are they not bowed down, when from their own destructive loftiness of vanity and cruelty, they are turned to the humble way of mercy and truth?”

Verse 7

I saw - in prophetic vision 1 Kings 22:17.

The tents of Cushan in (under) affliction - Upon the coming of the Lord there follows the visitation of those alien from Him. . Cushan-Rishathaim was the first, whose ambition God overruled to chasten His people Judges 3:8-10.. It has been remarked that as “king of Aram-Naharaim” or North Mesopotamia, he was probably sovereign of the Aram, from which Balak king of Moab, allied with Midian, sent for Balaam to curse Israel. Midian was the last enemy who, at the very entrance of the promised land, seduced God’s people into idolatry and foul sin and lusts. Midian became then the object of the wrath of God Numbers 25:17. They were also among the early oppressors of Israel, leaving Judges 6:4, Judges 6:11. “no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor ass,” driving them for refuge to dwell in the “dens and the mountains, caves and fastnesses,” consuming the produce of their land like locusts, so that he whom God raised up as their subduer, was threshing even in a wine-press to hide it from them.

Both the kingdom of Aram-Naharaim and Midian disappear from history after those great defeats. Midian, beside its princes Judges 8:10. “lost,” by mutual slaughter, “one hundred and twenty thousand men who drew sword.” It left its name as a proverb for the utter destruction of these who sought to exterminate the people of God. Psalms 83:9, Psalms 83:11-12. “Do unto them as unto the Midianites; make them and their princes like Oreb and Zeeb; all their princes us Zebah and as Zalmunnah, who said, let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.” It was an exterminating warfare, which rolled back on those who waged it. So Isaiah sums up an utter breaking-off of the yoke and the rod of the oppressor, as being Isaiah 9:4 “as in the day of Midian.” The same word, aven, is nothingness, iniquity, and the fruit of iniquity, trouble (Job 5:6; Job 26:14; Jeremiah 4:15; Hosea 9:4; not in Psalms 55:4; nor (as Gesenius) in Job 4:8; Psalms 22:8; Isaiah 59:4.) (since iniquity is emptiness and opposed to that which is, God and His Goodness, and ends in sorrow); so then Cushan is seen as lying as all sinners do, weighed down by and under what is very “emptiness.”

Tents and curtains are emblems of what shall pass away, under which the wicked shelter themselves from the troubles of this present life, as from heat and rain, “but which in themselves decay, and are consumed by fire.” “The curtains of Midian tremble.” The prophet uses the present to shew that he was not speaking of any mere past terror, but of that terror, which should still seize those opposed to God. The word “wrath” (רגז rôgez) echoes through the hymns; Habakkuk 3:2. here the wicked tremble, רגז râgaz, under it, to perish; afterward the prophet Habakkuk 3:16. to live.

Verse 8

Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? - The prophet asks the question thrice, as to the two miracles of the dividing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River, thereby the more earnestly declaring, that God meant somewhat by these acts and beyond them. He asks, as Daniel Daniel 7:16. and Zechariah asked, what was the truth of the things which they saw. God’s defilings with His former people were as much ensamples of what should be with us 1 Corinthians 10:11. as the visions shown to the prophets. Hereafter too, there shall be Luke 21:25; Revelation 8:6 “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;” there shall be deepening plagues upon the sea and the rivers and fountains of waters; and every living soul in the sea shall die Revelation 16:3. But God’s purpose therein aforetime was not as to the sea or the rivers, but for the salvation of His elect; so shall it be to the end. Mighty as may be the “mighty waves of the sea” which lift themselves up against the Lord, “mightier on high is the Lord” Psalms 93:4. Jerome: “As Thou didst dry up the Jordan and the Red Sea, fighting for us; for Thou wert not wroth with the rivers or the sea, nor could things without sense offend Thee; so now mounting Thy chariots, and taking Thy bow, Thou wilt give salvation to Thy people; and the oaths which Thou swarest to our fathers and the tribes, Thou wilt fulfill forever.”

Thou didst ride upon Thy horses - as though God set His army Psalms 103:12. “the Hosts which do His pleasure,” against the armies of earth, as the prophet’s servant had his eyes opened to see 2 Kings 6:15. “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” Jerome: “Yet amidst so many thousands of horses and chariots, there was no rider; He was the Rider and Ruler of those horses, of whom the Psalmist says Psalms 80:1. ‘Thou that sittest above the Cherubim, shew Thyself.’ With such horses and such chariots was Elijah also taken up into Heaven.”

And Thy chariots of salvation - literally “Thy chariots are salvation.” Not, as in human armies, except as far as they are the armies of God, to destruction. The end of God’s armies, His visitations and judgments, is the salvation of His elect, even while they who are inwardly dead, perish outwardly also. Nor, again, do they prepare for the deliverance for which He intends them. With God, to will is to do. His chariots are salvation. His help is present help. His chariots are the tokens and channels of His Presence to aid. And so, they who bore His “Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, chosen vessels” to bear it, are, in a yet fuller sense, His chariots, which are salvation. Jerome said that they “are holy souls, upon which the word of God cometh, to save them and others by them Song of Solomon 1:9.. ‘I have compared thee,’ saith the Spouse, ‘to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.’ However holy the soul, yet compared to God, it is like the chariot of Pharaoh; and a beast, yet still a beast, before Thee.” Psalms 73:23.. Yet such an one, as endowed with might and ready obedience, and swiftness and nobleness to bear the Word of God, and through His might whom they bore, not their own, nor making it their own, bearing down everything which opposed itself.

Cyril: “The object of the prophet, is to show that the second dispensation is better and more glorious, and of incomparably better things than the old. For of old He led Israel forth, through the bodily service of Moses, changing into blood the rivers of Egypt, and doing signs and wonders; then dividing the Red Sea, and carrying over the redeemed, and choking in the waters the most warlike of the Egyptians. But when the only-begotten Word of God became Man, He withdrew the whole human race under heaven from the tyranny of Satan, not changing rivers into blood, nor pouring forth His anger upon waters, nor dividing waves of the sea, nor bringing destruction upon people, but rather destroying the murderous Serpent himself, and taking away the sin which had been invented by him and for him, and loosing the unconquered might of death, and calling all to the knowledge of God, through the holy apostles, who, running forth their course under the whole heaven and bearing about the name of Christ, were very rightly had in admiration.

He saith then, O Lord, most worthy to be heard are those things, of which Thou hast Thyself been the Doer, and what Thou hast done anew is far better than what Thou didst through Moses. For Thou wilt not inflict wrath on rivers, nor show Thy might on the sea; not in these things will Thy divine and marvelous power gleam forth, but ‘Thou wilt ride upon Thy horses,’ and ‘Thy chariots are Salvation.’ What may these horses be? The blessed disciples, apostles and evangelists, they who took on them wholly the yoke of all His divine will, they, the noble, the obedient, ready for all things, whatsoever should please Him; who had Christ to sit upon them, whereof one is the blessed Paul, of whom Himself saith, Acts 9:15 : ‘He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles.’ Of fiery speed were these Horses, encompassing the whole earth; so then the chariots of God are said to be ‘ten thousand times ten thousand’ Psalms 68:17. For countless, each in their times, and after them, became leaders of the people, and subjected the neck of the understanding to the yoke of the Saviour, and bare about His glory throughout the whole earth, and rightly divided the word of truth, and subdued the whole earth, as with the speed of horsemen.”

His chariots are salvation - Cyril: “for they ran not in vain, but to save cities and countries and nations together, Christ overthrowing the empires of devils, who, so to speak, divided among themselves the whole earth, subduing its dwellers to their own will.”

Verse 9

Thy bow was made quite naked - The word is repeated for emphasis. Literally, (In) “nakedness, it was laid naked;” the sheath being laid aside and cast away, as Isaiah says, Isaiah 22:6. “Kir laid bare the shield.” Gregory, Mor. xix. 9. n. 54, Compare Augustine in Psalms 59:0, n. 6.: The bow represents the threat of the vengeance of Almighty God, from which it is at length discharged, if not turned aside; the longer the string is drawn, the sharper issueth the arrow. So then the more the coming of the day of judgment is delayed, the stricter is the severity of the judgment then issuing. So long as judgment is delayed, the bow seems laid up in its sheath. God’s judgments mostly strike suddenly. Psalms 64:7, “as with a swift arrow,” because men regard them not, coming from a bow at a distance which they see not. His more signal judgments He makes bare in sight of all.

According to the oath of (to) the tribes - “the oath which He swore unto our father Abraham,” which oath He often renewed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and again to David This oath, the word and promise of God, was the pledge of the deliverance of His people, that they “should be saved from their enemies, and from the hand of all that hate them.” It lay, as it were, covered and hid, so long as God completed it not. Selah. A pause followeth, wherein to meditate on all which is contained in the word or promise of God, which is all time and eternity.

Thou didst cleave the earth with (into) rivers - Sea and river had become dry land for the passing through of God’s people; again, the rock, struck by Moses’ rod, was split, so that “rivers ran in the dry places.” Until that Rock, which was Christ, was stricken, and “out of His side came blood and water” John 19:24, the whole world was desert and barren; then it was turned into streams of water, and “now not four but twelve streams went forth from the Paradise of Scriptures” (Jerome) For from the One Fountain which is Christ, there issue many streams, even as many as convey the waters of His teaching, to water the earth.

Verse 10

The mountains saw Thee and they trembled - literally, “they tremble.” While man is insensate, inanimate nature feels and attests the presence of its Maker. “It saw it trembles.” To see, feel, tremble were one. The prophet does not follow a bare order of events, or bind himself to miracles which actually took place. The mountains tremble with earthquakes, or seem to be shaken by the thunders which they re-echo. And so they are signs, how what is firmest and closes up the way to man, trembles at the Presence of God. Whatever is lifted up shall be bowed down before Him. (See Zechariah 4:7.). But the word “trembled” is that which is especially used of travail pangs and so it may spiritually denote that “they who conceive the fear of God shall bring forth unto salvation.” “The overflowing,” i. e., the impetuous, sweeping, flow, of the water (or, of waters), such as in themselves would bear all before them, pass by harmless. The more they swell, the more they expend themselves, and pass away. “The whole force of persecution, wherewith they vexed Thy people, at sight of Thee passed away,” like a torrent which rages and disappears, and, by raging, the sooner wastes itself.

The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands - רום = מרום mârôm which stands as the accusative of direction with “lifted up the eyes” Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 40:26.

On high - The noise of the waves, when God brought the strong East wind over it and Psalms 106:9. rebuked it, was as a cry to God; the waves, as they swelled, were like hands lifted up to Him, and stricken one against the other. There is no distinct ground against a slightly different rendering it: “the deep uttered his voice, the height lifted up his hands” i. e., to One yet higher, whom height and depth owned as their Lord and worshipped.

Verse 11

Sun and moon stood still (as one act retiring into) in their habitation - They withdrew, as it were, in the midst of the great tempest, wherein Joshua 10:11-13. “God cast down great stones from heaven upon” His enemies and they died; and “the sun stood still, and the moon stayed.” The sun too withdrew itself in the great darkness at the crucifixion, as not bearing to look upon the death of its Maker, when the majesty of the Sun of Righteousness was darkened o’er; and signs in the sun and in the moon there shall be to the end.

At the light of Thine arrows they went - A. E.: “There was no need of the sun by day, nor of the moon by night; for by the light of Thine arrows can the sons of men hold their way.” Tanchum: “This is a mystical interpretation, as you see; this is like the promise of the Most High; Isaiah 60:19. ‘the sun shall be no more for thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee, and the Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light.’” The judgments of God are a light to His people, while they are the destruction of His enemies; in them they “learn righteousness” Isaiah 26:9. The arrows are God’s judgments, as they threaten and wound from afar;

The shining of Thy glittering spear - literally, of the lightning of Thy spear, when close at hand. When all other light is withdrawn, and the Sun, our Lord, is hardly beheld in the darkness of the last days, and the moon, the Church, shall not give her light, Christ not shining upon her as before, because “iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold,” and “stars,” many who seem to shine with the light of grace, “shall fall from heaven,” His own shall walk on and advance in holiness. Dion.: “from strength to strength, Psalms 84:7. from good to better, from the way to their home,” by the bright light of the lightning of God’s Judgments, wherein His glory shall be manifested. Arrows and spears are part of the spiritual armory of God, wherewith the people are subdued unto Him. Cyril: “armory, not wherewith He is girt but which He giveth to those who are meet; bright and as it were full of lightning. For most transparent is virtue.” They went then at the light of Thine arrows. Cyril: “because to those who love sin virtue has no beauty, nor, as yet, any brightness. But to those who know her she is nothing less than lightning, bright and transparent, so that whoso hath her is easily known to all around. The disciples then, first having the lightning of Thine arms, shall lead others also to its Light. Admiring and conceiving in themselves those virtues which are the arms of Christ, they shine forth to others, a gleam, as it were, of the bright flash of light inherent in those graces.” Rup.: “They were enlightened and began, by preaching, to send forth shining words of truth. But those words are Thine arrows, shining arrows, showing by their light the way of life, and by their sharp point pricking the hearts of people unto repentance.”

Verse 12

Thou didst march the earth in indignation - The word “tread” is used of very solemn manifestations of God, (Judges 5:4; Psalms 68:8; of the procession of the ark, 2 Samuel 6:13. It is denied as to the idols, Jeremiah 10:5.) of His going to give to His own victory over their enemies Not the land only, as of old, but the earth is the scene of His judgments; the earth which was “full of His praise,” which He “meted out” Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:6 which contained the nations whom He chastened, the whole earth.

Thou dost thresh the heathen in anger - Not then only, but at all times unto the end, distress of nations and perplexity are among the shoots of the fig tree, which betoken that the everlasting, Luke 21:25-31, “summer is nigh at hand.” Jerusalem, when it had slain the Prince of Life, was given over to desolation and counted like the pagan. It became the synagogue, not the Church; and so in the destruction of Jerusalem (as it is an image of the destruction of the world) was that again fulfilled, “Thou dost march through the earth in indignation, Thou dost thresh the heathen in anger.”

Verse 13

Thou wentest forth - Even a Jew says of this place, Kimchi: “The past is here used for the future; and this is frequent in the language of prophecy; for prophecy, although it be future, yet since it is, as it were, firmly fixed, they use the past concerning it.” The prophet speaks again in the past, perhaps to fix the mind on that signal going-forth, when God destroyed Pharaoh, the first enemy who essayed to destroy the chosen line. This stands at the head of all those dispensations, in which God put or shall put forth His might to save His people or destroy their enemies. All is with Him one everlasting purpose; the last were, as it were, embodied in the first: were it not for the last, the first would not have been. Prophecy, in speaking of the first, has in mind all the rest, and chiefly the chiefest and the end of all, the full salvation of His people through Jesus Christ our Lord. “Thou wentest forth,” i. e. Rup.: “Thou, the Unseen God, gavest signs which may be seen of Thy Presence or coming to men.” “Thou wentest forth,” not by change of place, for Thou art not bounded; Thou art without change; but by showing Thy power, and doing something anew openly.

For the salvation of thy people even for salvation with Thine anointed - The English Version is doubtless right. So Aquila, although a Jew rendered, and the 5th Version. The 6th, a Christian, translated, “Thou wentest forth to save Thy people through Jesus, Thy Christ.” So also the Vulgate and other old Jewish authorities. Rachmon (in Martini Pug. Fid. f. 534.). notes “that the word (את 'êth) means “with,” as in Genesis 37:2; Genesis 39:2.” For although it might he used to mark the object only after a verbal noun, it is not likely that the construction would have been changed, unless the meaning were different. If (את 'êth) had been only the sign of the object there was no occasion for inserting it at all, and it would probably have been avoided, as only making the sentence ambiguous, in that it may more obviously be taken in the sense adopted by Aquila and the Vulgate and the English version.

The Septuagint and two early heretics who disbelieved the divinity of our Lord (Theodotion and Symmachus) render “to save Thy Christs.” Moreover, the Septuagint is wrong in that the “anointed” is never used of the people, but of single persons only, who were shadows of the Christ. “Thine anointed” is understood of one individual - “the king of Judah,” by A. E. “Saul and David,” by Rashi; “Moses,” by Abarb.; “Hezekiah” by Tanchum; but “Messiah Ben David,” by Kimchi Sal. b. Mel. God, from the first, helped His people through single persons - Moses, Joshua, each of the Judges - accustoming them to receive deliverance by one, and to gather together all their hopes in One. To Moses He said, Exodus 3:12 : “I will be with thee,” and to Joshua, Joshua 1:5 : “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee,” and to Cyrus, Isaiah 45:2 : “I will go before thee,” preparing His people to receive that nearer Presence with His Christ, of which our Lord says: “Believest thou not, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The Father that Dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works” John 14:10 Rup.: “The Son of God, God Invisible, became Man, visible; and with Him, so going forth, the Holy Spirit went forth ‘to the salvation of His people,’ so as to give a visible sign of His Coming. For upon His Christ Himself, Him who was anointed with the Holy Spirit Acts 10:38. ‘He descended in a bodily Shape, as a Dove.’ So He ‘went forth to the Salvation of His people,’ i. e., to save His people with His Christ, our Saviour;” and again, on the Day of Pentecost, when that other Comforter came, “whom,” He said, I” will send unto you from the Father,” and in whose Presence His own promise was fulfilled, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” His Presence was manifested both in the remission of sins, and the parting of graces among all, and in the Hebrews 2:4. “signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost,” wherewith “God bare witness to the apostles,” when, Mark 16:20, “they went forth, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” A going forth to judgment, at the end of the world, is foretold in the like image of warfare (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11 ff).

Thou woundedst (crushedst) the head out of the house of the wicked - One wicked stands over against One anointed, as in Isaiah Isaiah 11:4. “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked;” and David speaks of one “He shall smite the head over a great land” Psalms 110:6; and Paul speaks of “that wicked, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” 1 Thessalonians 4:8 Him He shall destroy at once from above and below; overthrowing his kingdom from the foundation. From above, his head was crushed in pieces; from below, the house was razed from its very foundations. So Amos said, Amos 9:1, “The Lord said, Smite the capital, and the lintel (threshold ) strike, and wound them in the head, all of them;” and with a different image Amos 2:9. “I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.” First, the head is struck off, crushed; then the house from the foundations to its neck; then as it were the headless walls. The image of the neck may be the rather used to recall, that as the house of God is built of living stones, so the kingdom of the evil one is made of living dead, who shall never cease to exist in an undying death. The bruising of Satan, the head or prince of this evil world, is the deliverance of the world. His head was bruised, when, by the Death of our Lord, “the Prince of this world was cast out;” he is “crushed out of the house of the wicked, whenever he, the strong man,” is bound and cast out, and “the soul of the sinner which had been his abode, becomes the house of God, and righteousness dwelleth there and walketh in her.”

Rup.: “Thou didst not leave any error or vice in the world unshaken, either what was concealed, like the foundation of a house; or that which was open, as the neck of the body is open;” to the neck, where the destruction from above ceased, so that nothing remained unsmitten. Rup.: “For they being, by the fiery tongues which Thou shewedst without, made fervent and strong, wise and eloquent, ceased not, until they made known to all, what folly was this world’s wisdom, what sacrilege its sacred worship.” Dion.: “His secret counsels He laid bare, as the apostle says 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10. We are not ignorant of his devices; and, to another is given the discerning of spirits.”

Verse 14

Thou didst strike through with his staves the head of his villages - The destruction comes not upon himself only, but upon the whole multitude of his subjects; and this not by any mere act of divine might, but “with his own staves,” turning upon him the destruction which he prepared for others. So it often was of old. When the Midianites and Amalekites and the children of the east Judges 6:3-4 wasted Israel in the days of Gideon “the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host” Judges 7:22; and when God delivered the Philistines into the hand of Jonathan 1 Samuel 14:12, 1 Samuel 14:16, 1 Samuel 14:20 so it was with “Ammon Moab and the inhabitants of Mount Seir,” at the prayer of Jehoshaphat and his army 2 Chronicles 20:22-23. And so it shall be, God says, at the end, of the army of God; “every man’s sword shall be against his brother,” Ezekiel 38:21. and Isaiah says, Isaiah 9:20, “every man shall eat the flesh of his own arm,” and Zechariah Zechariah 14:13, “a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay every man hold on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor.”

So Pharaoh drove Israel to the shore of the sea, in which he himself perished; Daniel’s accusers perished in the den of lions, from which Daniel was delivered unharmed; Daniel 6:24. and so Haman was hanged on the gallows which he prepared for Mordecai Esther 7:10. So it became a saying of Psalmists (Psalms 7:5, add Psalms 9:15; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 35:8; Psalms 57:6; Psalms 94:23; Psalms 141:10; Proverbs 5:22; Proverbs 26:27; Ecclesiastes 10:8.) “He made a pit and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made; his mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate:” and this from above, sent down by God. The pagan too observed that there was “no juster law than that artificers of death by their own art should perish.” This too befell him, when he seemed to have all but gained his end. “They came (out) as a whirlwind to scatter me,” with whirlwind force, to drive them asunder to all the quarters of the heavens, as the wind scatters the particles of Job 37:11. cloud, or (Jeremiah 13:24, add Jeremiah 18:17; Isaiah 41:16, Delitzsch) “as the stubble which passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.” Pharaoh at the Red Sea or Sennacherib, sweep all before them. Pharaoh said Exodus 15:9. “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.”

Their rejoicing - It is no longer one enemy. The malice of the members was concentrated in the head; the hatred concentrated in him was diffused in them. The readiness of instruments of evil to fulfill evil is an incentive to those who conceive it; those who seem to ride the wave are but carried on upon the crest of the surge which they first roused. They cannot check themselves or it. So the ambitious conceiver of mischief has his own guilt; the willing instruments of evil have theirs. Neither could be fully evil without the other. Sennacherib had been nothing without those fierce warriors who are pictured on the monuments, with individual fierceness fulfilling his will, nor the Huns without Attila, or Attila without his hordes whose tempers he embodied. Satan would be powerless but for the willing instruments whom he uses. So then Holy Scripture sometimes passes from the mention of the evil multitude to that of the one head, on earth or in hell, who impels them; or from the one evil head who has his own special responsibility in originating it, to the evil multitude, whose responsibility and guilt lies in fomenting the evil which they execute.

Their rejoicing - He does not say simply “they rejoice to,” but herein is their exceeding, exulting joy. The wise of this earth glories in his wisdom, the mighty man in his might, the rich in his riches: the truly wise, that he understandeth and knoweth God. But as for these, their exultation is concentrated in this, savagery; in this is their jubilation; this is their passion. Psalmists and pious people use the word to express their exulting joy in God: people must have an object for their empassioned souls; and these, in cruelty.

As it were to devour the poor secretly - From the general he descends again to the individual, but so as now to set forth the guilt of each individual in that stormy multitude which is, as it were, one in its evil unity, when each merges his responsibility, as it were, in that of the body, the horde or the mob, in which he acts. Their exultation, he says, is that of the individual robber trod murderer, who lies wait secretly in his ambush, to spring on the defenseless wanderer, to slay him and devour his substance. Premeditation, passion, lust of cruelty, cowardice, murderousness, habitual individual savagery and treachery, and that to the innocent and defenseless, are all concentrated in the words, “their exultation is, as it were, to devour the poor secretly,” i. e. “in their secret haunt.”

Pharaoh had triumphed over Israel. “They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in” Exodus 14:3. He rejoiceth in having them wholly in his power, as a lion has his prey in his lair, in secret, unknown to the Eyes of God whom he regarded not, with none to behold, none to deliver. Dion.: “They gloried in oppressing the people of Israel, even as the cruel man glories in secretly rending and afflicting the needy, when without fear they do this cruelty, nor heed God beholding all as Judge. The invisible enemies too rejoice very greatly in the ruin of our souls “Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him: for if I be cast down, they that trouble me will rejoice at it Psalms 13:4. “O Lord and governor of all my life, leave me not to their counsels and let me not fall by them” (Ecclesiasticus 23:1). Yet God left them not in his hands; but even “brake the head of Leviathan in pieces.”

Verse 15

Thou didst walk through the sea with Thine horses - God Himself is pictured as leading them on the way, Himself at the head of their multitude, having, as Asaph said of old “His path in the sea.” So Isaiah Isaiah 63:13. “who leddest them in the depths;” and Zechariah Zechariah 10:11. “And he shall pass through the sea.” God was literally there; for Acts 17:28. “in Him we live and move and have our being.” He who “is wholly everywhere but the whole of Him nowhere” manifested His Presence there. Such anthropomorphisms have a truth, which people’s favorite abstractions have not.

Through the heap - o of great waters as of old Exodus 15:8; Psalms 78:13. “the waters stood us a heap, and He made the waters to stand a a heap.” The very hindrances to deliverance are in God’s hands a way for His ends. The waves of the Red Sea rose in heaps, yet this was but a readier way for the salvation of His people and the destruction of their enemies. Dion.: “God prepareth ever a way for His elect in this present evil world, and leadeth them along the narrow way which leadeth unto life.”

Verse 16

When I heard - , better, “I heard and ...” The prophet sums up, resuming that same declaration with which he had begun, “I heard, I was afraid.” Only now he expresses far more strongly both his awe at God’s judgments and his hopes. He had just beheld the image of the destruction of Pharaoh, the end of the brief triumphing of the wicked and of the trials of God’s people. But awful as are all the judgments of God upon the enemies of His people, it was not this alone which was the object of his terror. This was deliverance. It was the whole course of God’s dispensations, which he had heard; God’s punishment of His people for their sins, and the excision of their oppressors, who, in His Providence, fulfilling their own evil end, executed His chastisements upon them. The deliverances, which shadowed out the future, had their dark side, in that they were deliverances. The whole course of this world is one series of man’s unfaithfulnesses or sins, God’s chastisements of them through their fellow-sinners, and His ultimate overt brow of the aggressors. Those first three centuries of glorious martyrdoms were, on the one side, the malice and hatred of Satan and the world against the truth; on the other side, the prophets of those days told their people that they were the chastisements of their sins. Future deliverance implies previous chastisement of those delivered. The prophet then, at the close, in view of all, for himself and all whose perplexities he represented and pleaded before God, chooses his and their portion. “Suffer here and rest forever!” “Endure here any terror, any failure of hopes, yet trust wholly in God, have rest in the day of trouble and sing the endless song!” Again he casts himself back amid all the troubles of this life.

I heard - (i. e. that speech of God uttering judgments to come) “and my belly,” the whole inward self, bodily and mental, all his hidden powers, trembled , “vibrated” as it were, “Sin every fibre of his frame,” at the wrath of God; “my lips quivered at the voice of God,” so that they almost refused their office and could hardly fulfill the prophetic duty and utter the terrors which he had heard; his very strongest parts, the bones, which keep the whole frame of man together, that he be not a shapeless mass, and which remain unconsumed long after the rest has wasted away in the grave, “rottenness entered into them,” corruption and mouldering eating into them; and “I trembled in myself” (literally under me) so that he was a burden to himself and sank unable to support himself, “that I might rest in the day of trouble.”

All up to this time was weariness and terror, and now at once all is repose; the prophet is carried, as it were, over the troubles of this life and the decay of the grave to the sweetness of everlasting rest I, the same, suffer these things, terror, quivering, rottenness in the very bones themselves. “I (literally) who shall rest in the day of trouble.” I who had not rest until then, shall enter into rest then in the very day of trouble to all who found their rest in the world not in God, the day of judgment Psalms 94:12-13.. “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him in Thy law, that Thou mayest give him patience in time of adversity, until the pit be digged up for the ungodly.”

“O my soul; had we daily to bear tortures, had we for a long time to endure hell itself, that we might see Christ in His glory and be the companion of His saints, were it not worth enduring all sorrow, that we might be partakers of so exceeding a good, such exceeding glory?”

When he cometh up unto the people, he shall invade them with his troops - or, which is probably meant, “when he cometh up who shall invade them.” It is a filling out of “the day of trouble.” However, near the trouble came, he, under the protection of God and in firm trust in Him, would be at rest in Him. The troubles of God’s prophets are not the outward troubles, but the sins of their people which bring those troubles, the offence against the majesty of God, the loss of souls. Jeremiah was more at rest in the court of the prison, than when all the people did curse him Jeremiah 15:10 for telling them God’s truth. He who fears God and His judgments betimes, shall rest in perfect tranquility when those judgments come. The immediate trouble was the fierce assault of the Chaldees whose terror he had described; and this, picturing, as through the prophecy, all other judgments of God even to the last, when devils shall contend about the souls of people, as Satan did about the body of Moses.

Verse 17

Although - literally, For

The fig tree shall not blossom - The prophet repeats his confidence in God, premising his knowledge that all human hopes should fail. I know, he says, all stay and support shall fail; he numbers from the least to the greatest, the fruits of trees, the fig, vine and olive, for sweetness, gladness, cheerfulness Psalms 104:15. whereof the well-being of the vine and fig tree furnishes the proverbial picture of peace and rest. These shall either not shoot forth, or shall at time of fruit-gathering have no produce or having, as it were, labored to bring forth fruit shall lie and fail: yet further “the staff of life” itself shall fail; “the fields shall yield no meat;” all the fields, as though they were but one shall have one common lot, barrenness.

Yet more; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold; not those only, feeding abroad in fields and open plains, shall be driven away, but they shall be carried away by the enemy from the folds, where they seemed penned securely; and not these only, but “there shall be no herd in the stalls,” even the stronger animals shall utterly fail; every help for labor, or for clothing, or for food shall cease; he speaks not of privation, partial failure, but of the entire loss of all things, no meat from the fields, no herd in the stalls; and what then?

Verse 18

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. - The words are very impressive, as they stand in the Hebrew. “For,” he says, “the fig tree shall not blossom, and there is no fruit in the vines, the labor of the olive hath failed;” (the prophet does not look on, only to these things, but in his mind stands in the midst of them, they are done, and he amid them, feeling their effects) “and the field hath yielded no food; the flock hath been cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stall; and I.” He relates it as the result of all which had gone before; such and such was the state of fruit-trees, vintage, harvest, flocks and herds; such was the aspect of all nature, living or inanimate; all was barren, disappointing; all had failed and was gone; and then at last he comes to himself, and I; what is he doing, when all nature and every seeming hope is dead? thus and thus it is with them; and I will rejoice.

He almost uses the expression as to the exultation of the enemy, adopting the same word only in a softer form. “Their exulting joy was” concentrated in this, “as to devour the poor secretly;” he too had “exulting joy.” There is a joy against joy - a joy of theirs in the possession of all which their rapacity covets, in the possession of all things: a joy of his amid the privation of all things. He contrasts the two joys, as David had of old; Psalms 17:13, Psalms 17:15 : “the men of the world, whose portion is in this life, whose belly Thou fillest with Thy hid treasure; they are sated of children and leave their substance to their babes: I,” he adds, “I shall behold Thy Presenee in righteousness, I shall be sated, in the awakening, with Thine image.” So Habakkuk, “I will not rejoice only, but shout for joy;” and not so only, but “I will bound for joy;” and this not for a time only; both words express a drawing, yearning of the soul, and this yet more and more, “I will shout for joy and would shout on; I will bound for joy and would bound on.”

But whence the source of this measureless unutterable joy? In the Lord, the Unchangeable God, “who is and was and is to come,” I am (it is the incommunicable Name); in the God of my salvation: it is almost the Name of Jesus; for jesus is salvation, and the Name means “the Lord is Salvation;” whence the words are here rendered even by a Jew “in God the Author of my redemption,” and yet more sweetly by a father. Augustine, de Civ. D. xviii. 32: “To me what some manuscripts have; ‘I will rejoice in God my Jesus,’ seems better than what they have, who have not set the Name itself (but saving) which to us it is more loving and sweeter to name.”) “in God my Jesus.” In Him his joy begins, to Him and in Him it flows back and on; before he ventures, amid all the desolation, to speak of joy, he names the Name of God, and, as it were, stays himself in God, is enveloped and wrapped round in God; sad I (the words stand in this order) “and I in the Lord would shout for joy.”

He comes, as it were, and places himself quite close to God, so that nothing, not even his joy should be between himself and God; “and I in the Lord.” All creation, as it had failed, ceases to be; all out of God: he speaks of nothing but himself and God, or rather himself in God; and as He, God, comes before his joy, as its source, so in Him does he lose himself, with joy which cannot be contained, nor expressed, nor rest, but utters itself in the glad motions of untiring love. “I would bound for joy in my Saving God.” Truly all our joy is, to be in Him in whom is all Good, who is all Goodness and all Love.

Verse 19

The Lord God is my strength - The prophet does not inwardly only exult and triumph in God, but he confesses also in words of praise, that in Him he hath all things, that He is All things in him. And as he had confessed the Father, under the Name whereby He revealed Himself to Moses, and the Son, “the Lord God of my salvation,” so he confesses God the Holy Ghost, who, in us, is our strength. “He is our strength,” so that through Him, we can do all things; “He is our strength,” so that without Him, we can do nothing; “He is our strength,” so that when we put forth strength, we put forth nothing of our own, we add nothing of our own, we use not our own strength, of which we have none, but we do use His; and we have It ever ready to use, as if it were our own. For it is not our own and it is our own; not our own, i. e., not from or of ourselves; but our own, since It is in us, yea “He the Lord our God is our strength,” not without us, for He is our strength, but in us.

And so he says further, how we can use it as our own. “He will make my feet like hinds,” which bound upward through His imparted strength, trod, when scared by alarms here below, flee tearless to their native reeks, spring from height to height, and at last shew themselves on some high peak, and standing on the Rock, look down on the whole world below their feet and upward on high. Even so when at the end of the world all shall fail, and the love of many shall wax cold, and the Church, which is likened to the fig tree the vine and the (Luke 13:6; Isaiah 5:1; 21:33; etc. Romans 11:17.) olive, shall yield no fruits, and sweetness shall be corrupted by vanities, and the oil of mercy shall be dried up, and lamps go out, and its promises shall fail and it shall lie, having “a show of goodness, but denying the power of it; in words confessing God, and in works denying Him;” and through their own negligences, or the carelessness of pastors, the sheep of Christ shall perish from His very fold, and they who should be strong to labor 1 Corinthians 9:9-10. shall cease, God’s elect shall joy in Him, “beholding His goodness, and loving Him in all things, and He will give them free affections, and fervid longings of holy love, whereby they shall not walk only, but run the way of His commandments and prevail over the enemies of their salvation.”

Yet though this strength is inward, and used by man, still God who gives it, Himself guides it. Not man shall “direct his own ways,” but “He will make me to walk (as on a plain way) upon my high place.” Steep and slippery places and crags of the reeks are but ways to the safe height above, to those whom God makes to walk on them; and since he has passed all things earthly, what are his high places, but the heavenly places, even his home, even while a pilgrim here, but now at the end, much more his home, when not in hope only, but in truth, he is “raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus?” Ephesians 2:6)

And now what remains then, but that this song of praise should be forever? And so it is not without meaning, nor was of old thought to be so that there stand here, at the end, words which elsewhere in the Psalms always stand at the beginning. Nor is it anywhere else, “upon my stringed instruments.”

To the chief singer on my stringed instruments - To Him to whom all praise is due, through whom we praise Himself, His Spirit pleading in us, for us, “upon my stringed instruments.” He Himself, providing, as it were, and teaching the prelude of the endless song, and by His spirit, breathing upon the instrument which He has attuned, and it giving back faithfully, in union with the heavenly choir with whom it is now blended, the angelic hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Habakkuk 3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.